By James Calemine
Soul legend Al Green needs no introduction…
Lay It Down marks Green’s 29th studio album. On this disc, Green employed hip-hop producers Amir “Questlove” Thompson and James Poyser instead of his usual Hi-Records sidekick Willie Mitchell. Green received two Grammys for this release.
Green had a hand in writing every song on Lay It Down. The Mighty Clouds of Joy guitarist Spanky Alford contributes amazing work on these digital grooves. The title track sets the pace with a sultry, swaying song, setting the tone for this low-light sequence. Vibrations of the old Hi Record days flash on “Just For Me”…
Alford’s jazzy guitar work propels “You Got the Love I Need”, which verifies Al Green remains vital as ever. A stripped down “No One Like You” resembles reggae half-tones with subtle brass colorations from The Dap-Kings Horns.
“Take Your Time” lives up to the days when Al Green songs were being played in bedrooms all across the world. “Too Much”—one of the most moving songs on this collection—ranks as a country ballad (think Ray Charles at his most inspired) that stands as a classic, no matter the year.
“All I Need” evokes a nostalgic sentiment. Instead of utilizing horns as a hip-clip, these brass arrangements evoke the psychic weather…this song invokes invisible emotion. “Standing In The Rain” sounds like an anthem that inspires a glimmer of hope in a mean old world…no matter the neighborhood.
Jimmy McDonough wrote this about Lay It Down in his 2017 Soul Survivor–A Biography of Al Green:
“The end result is exactly what Questlove promised: Al Green’s best since Belle. I can remember the exact moment I popped in the CD and heard the opening of “Lay It Down”. An actual chill ran down my spine. This was the Al Green I’d thought would never return.”
The bonus track, “Wanna Stay” should play on any mixed CD you burn for a friend who may be at the end of your last call. Listening to Lay It Down proves time well spent…